Another person has been hit and killed by a driver on SE Powell

Powell Blvd near 29th.

On Saturday night a person was hit and killed while trying to cross Southeast Powell Boulevard. According to a Portland Police statement, it happened at SE 29th and the victim was an adult male. Not a lot of details are known at this point, but the police say the vehicle was some sort of SUV.

This was the second pedestrian fatality in this same general area in the span of one month. On October 1st, 34-year-old Ryan Dickenson was hit and killed by a driver while trying to cross Powell on foot just a bit east of 29th.

This is the 54th traffic fatality so far this year, which puts us on pace for another record high. Since 1996 we’ve only had 50 or more road deaths four times and three of them were in the last three years. The 21 pedestrian fatalities we’ve had so far in 2021 is more than we’ve had since before 1996.

The location where these two people were killed in October is a typical urban arterial cross-section. It has five lanes — two general purpose lanes and one center turn lane. The speed limit is 35 mph. Powell is owned and operated by the State of Oregon as Highway 26.

Since 2010 there have been eight deaths on the 10-block stretch of Powell Blvd between 29th and Cesar Chavez Blvd (39th). The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is well aware of the safety issues here (they conducted a Safety Audit in 2013), but so far countermeasures have failed to directly address the main problem: deadly cars and the people who drive them.

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(Source: ODOT)

In 2019 ODOT spent $4.6 million on the Powell Blvd Safety Project which aimed to “increase safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and motorists” on the section between 20th and 34th. The project included: three new flashing beacon signs, new striping, a few new ADA-compliant curb ramps, better lighting, tree removal, and so on.

The issue on inner Powell is that the way ODOT manages arterials makes them simply incompatible with human life. And where we have rapid development and increasing amounts of humans living, working, and using these streets, we also have an increased risk of death and injury. At this location near 29th there’s a remodeled McDonald’s restaurant and Starbucks, a brew pub, a high school track, a Motel 6, a new Target store, and many other destinations.

Trimming back trees and brightening street lights allows ODOT to say they’re doing a “safety project”, but it’s really just busywork when the threat — the 38,000 cars and trucks that zoom through here everyday — remains absolutely unimpeded.

There’s also a large homeless encampment that has increased foot traffic in the area. Many people who’ve been killed by drivers in Portland were likely people living in camps adjacent to busy roads. According to Oregon Walks’ Fatal Pedestrian Crash Report, people living on the street are much more likely to be hit and killed by drivers than the rest of the population. No road or law enforcement agencies keep track of how many victims were houseless at the time of their death, but perhaps they should start so we can better assess the safety risks faced by this population and begin to take measures to mitigate them.

The future of Powell might be different if it were owned and managed by the City of Portland. Metro has ranked Powell the top candidate for jurisdictional transfer. In 2017 the Oregon Legislature granted funding to ODOT to conduct a study to identify projects needed to bring the road up to a “state of good repair” prior to making the switch. The Inner Powell State of Good Repair Study found it would take about $31 million to pay for necessary updates before PBOT would be able to take ownership from ODOT.

Until someone does something about the deadly potential of the vehicles that dominate SE Powell Blvd and the people who operate them, all we can do is hope that the next victim isn’t ourselves or someone we know and love.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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SilkySlim
SilkySlim
8 months ago

Just terrible. Again…

I live pretty darn close to here, just about three blocks south of Powell around 35th. For being a road, it is amazing how much of a roadBLOCK Powell is in my life. I feel like 95% of travel from my home steers me away from it, just to avoid the general unpleasantness of crossing (not to mention staying safe). Jogging I head down towards Reed. On bike rides I snake my down to Sellwood. Driving in car I hit up shops on Woodstock rather than Division. Things got a little better with the signaled crossing near the Cleveland track, but I only use that in daylight, non commuting hours (so basically 10-3 these days).

Watts
Watts
8 months ago

This is a tragedy.

I know the neighborhood associations along Powell (Richmond, HAND, Creston/Kenilworth, et. al.) have repeatedly asked ODOT/PBOT to lower speed limits and improve crossings (or even conduct a speed study to establish the basic facts of the situation). The rapid flash beacons are a big improvement, as are the signals at 21st & 26th, but the street is still far too dangerous, especially for one passing through a heavily populated part of the city.

Crisptwundo
Crisptwundo
8 months ago

The editorial tone is overboard in this story.

“…when the threat — the 38,000 cars and trucks that zoom through here everyday — remains absolutely unimpeded.”

“Until someone does something about the deadly potential of the vehicles that dominate SE Powell Blvd and the people who operate them

Hey guy, that’s 38,000 people who are just trying to get home, many of whom were priced out of the city and now live out east. I am one of them. We don’t do it because we are bad people who don’t care about safety, we do it out of necessity. Powell is a highway at the end of the day and all of the road diets across the city funnel traffic to 26 because we live out in the numbers. We need highways for cars to be on. Hawthorne, Division, Foster, etc. I am all in favor of making pedestrian scale but dude, people are going to drive. Period.

Also, lighting and vegetation reduction are absolute game changers for safety. Saying it’s “busy work” suggests a real deal ignorance. I can see better. That’s meaningful for safety.

Crisptwundo
Crisptwundo
8 months ago

What would feel like progress to you on Powell? What is your ideal outcome?

Crisptwundo
Crisptwundo
8 months ago

Oh man a BRT down Powell would be very cool.

Trask Owen Colby
Trask Owen Colby
8 months ago
Reply to  Crisptwundo

The most recent video from “Not Just Bikes” on youtube has a great breakdown of how to change this sort of Stroad into a liveable street that still maintains a high thoroughfare, but also transitions the street to a liveable street as is the aim, especially in that section, of Powell.

Matt
Matt
8 months ago
Reply to  Crisptwundo

If you can’t see where you’re going, *slow down*. THAT is meaningful for safety.

Betsy Reese
Betsy Reese
8 months ago
Reply to  Crisptwundo

I agree with Crisptwundo that increased lighting and vegetation reduction are important for safety.

I would like to make a comment, however, regarding “trimming trees” for ODOT’s 2019 safety project on this stretch. Their approach to trees that had low-growing suckers or low-hanging branches that caused a dangerous visual obstruction was to cut the whole tree down.

While persistent advocacy saved some of the trees targeted by ODOT, many were still cut down. This contributes to making Powell Blvd. less welcoming to pedestrians and transit users, and even more auto-centric, not to mention its effects on climate change, heat, etc.

ODOT would rather cut down mature trees than provide a consistent plan for maintenance involving removing suckers, weeds, and other low-growing vegetation, and limbing up or trimming back low-hanging branches. We have City code for both of these things which either needs to be enforced with the adjacent property owner, or if that does not apply on a state-owned road (nobody seems to know – I asked) then the state needs to routinely do it.

Solving a tree maintenance problem by getting rid of trees is not the answer.

Yex
Yex
8 months ago

So sad. A bicyclist was one of the first to offer aid. Also appears the crossing light was not functioning.
See forum for more details.

https://forums.bikeportland.org/t/be-careful-pdx-pedestrians-it-s-the-wild-west-in-portland/1566

J_R
J_R
8 months ago

My children attended Cleveland HS and participated in lots of before and after school activities. Even though my kids often biked to school, I often drove to pick them up after sports practices and other events when it was too late to safely ride home. I regularly saw motorists blow through the signal at Powell/26th (usually westbound, downhill).

I attended and provided comments at the ODOT open houses on the safety project. I was hoping for more including red light cameras at all the signalized intersections, but especially Powell/26th and a school speed zone. Unfortunately, ODOT doesn’t believe high schools deserve school speed zones and cameras are city responsibilities.

But what’s worse is that Portland doesn’t believe in traffic enforcement. So, even if there were a school speed zone of 20 mph, it wouldn’t matter. Speed zones and red lights are just suggestions.

We’ll see 70 traffic deaths by the end of the year and over 100 next year. In a few years, we can start thinking that our “Enforcement Zero” (trademark pending) program is not working.

Yex
Yex
8 months ago
Reply to  J_R

“But what’s worse is that Portland doesn’t believe in traffic enforcement. So, even if there were a school speed zone of 20 mph, it wouldn’t matter. Speed zones and red lights are just suggestions.”
JR, I nominate that for comment of the YEAR!

Mike
Mike
8 months ago

As someone who’s lived in this area of SE PDX and has been a car-free, year-round bike commuter for 10 yrs and who was hit in the x-walk at SE 24th & Powell coming home from work in Dec 2018, I’m all too familiar with the inner SE Powell arterial.

I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t use the very safe x-walk at SE 28th. You’re truly risking your life trying to cross Powell outside of a x-walk.

What I don’t understand is why the x-walk at SE 18th & Powell has a red traffic stoplight but others just have a crossing yellow. Every x-walk on Powell should be equipped w. a red traffic stoplight.

I can’t tell you how many times while in a flashing yellow x-walk an inattentive driver just drives right through as I’m yelling my lungs out and waiving my hands.

I remember years ago a group of people used to do x-walk education events. They’d send people into the x-walk, then flag down offending drivers and educate them on x-walks.

Jeff
Jeff
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Agreed. As someone who runs/walks across it regularly – there are now enough lighted crosswalks that there’s just no logic to crossing anywhere else. I find myself questioning my own decision to wear dark clothing when waiting for the signals. The fact is that it’s straight enough, and with the significant slope, that no matter what the posted speed, it’s going to be dangerous. I do appreciate the much enhanced lighting at the SE 26th intersection – that still wouldn’t stop someone blowing the red light but does make it safer.

Phillips
Phillips
8 months ago

I used to be one of the people screaming for extreme road diets and lower speeds on here but I have since changed my mind. With the level of dirty lawlessness and poor service currently delivered by transit it’s just impossible to imagine how normal people are supposed to move at distance in this city. Yes, cycling, I do it nearly every day because I’m young and strong but the city is clearly not committed to bringing that experience up to par with the driving experience.

With practically no law enforcement, the streets are more dangerous than ever. And the crime epidemic is real. People are retreating to cars and our liberal laissez faire approach to anything resembling order has begun to eat itself alive.

Yex
Yex
8 months ago
Reply to  Phillips

Phillips ,
Thank you for being brave with your comment. Too many in the biking community do not realize the importance of public safety and adequate police response in encouraging people to choose bikes over cars. I nominate your comment for comment of the month!

Carlo Robelli
Carlo Robelli
8 months ago

I don’t understand why pedestrian incidents are news stories on a website dedicated to bicycling. Are bicyclists pedestrians? No. If anything, cyclists are regarded by society as more akin to vehicles than walkers. Just my two piasters.

SilkySlim
SilkySlim
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlo Robelli

Because many of the same safety issues impact them both.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlo Robelli

We have a common enemy.

Sarcastic Sam
Sarcastic Sam
7 months ago

“….all we can do is hope that the next victim isn’t ourselves or someone we know and love.”

Yup, that’s it! That’s all you can do. Nothing else is worth trying. Just hope.
Don’t encourage that people wear hi-viz so drivers can see them, or that cyclists use flashing lights front and rear. Nah, don’t do any of that crap. Just keep hoping; and blaming cars and drivers. Yup, that’s the ticket!

soren
soren
7 months ago
Reply to  Sarcastic Sam

Yup, that’s the ticket!

So many children, mothers, fathers, and human beings buy one way tickets due to our culture of violent SUV/truck supremacy. Perhaps some self-reflection is in order, Sam.

Charley
Charley
7 months ago

Powell needs two auto traffic lanes and a new MAX line!!!!!!!!

Larry wade
Larry wade
6 months ago

I ride bike around Portland I put roughly 150 mi a day on my bike during the summer. The issue with pedestrians, getting hit by cars lies just as much fault with the pedestrians if not more because no matter how many crosswords that you put on the roads everyday I see pedestrians trying to cross the road 10 15 20 ft away from the crosswalk they don’t want to use the fucking crosswalks don’t want to wear safety clothes or anything that allows drivers to see them so before you start talking about drivers and cars being the problem maybe if Oregon would enact their jaywalking law and start giving tickets and being proactive with the lawbreakers that are crossing the streets at the wrong place then maybe the death toll would go down on people getting hit by cars it’s just ridiculous it’s as ridiculous as all these holgate being turned into a bike road I’ve seen three bikes go down that bike road that bike lane on either side of holgate since it’s been there and I spend a lot more time on holgate than any of you and lowering the speed limits you guys are have lost your damn mind you I don’t know where you getting your information from I don’t know what fantasy you guys are working from when you decide to lower the speed limits and put 10,000 crosswalks down the street that nobody freaking hardly ever uses instead of hitting the problem and taking and ticketing the pedestrians for jaywalking making holding them accountable for their actions